Auck To Get Bike Rental For RWC
As tipped here recently, Auckland will get a trial bike rental scheme in time for the RWC 2011, with the plan for it to become more permanent and be extended to more suburbs after the tournament is over.
Auckland Transport has called for expressions of interest from organisations interested in running such a business and a shortlist will be drawn up and then used as part of a planned future competitive tendering process.
Since the demise of the Nextbikes scheme, Auckland Council and Auckland Transport have each already considered proposals for, and adopted resolutions in support of further investigating a public bike hire scheme for Auckland.
In its document inviting expressions of interest, Auckland Transport says:
“Experience locally and elsewhere suggests a reliance on some form of on-street or on-bike sponsorship revenue to support public bike hire schemes. In some cases this is also in combination with public funding. AT will consider the case for public funding and any budgetary implications at a later stage of this procurement process.
“It should go without saying that schemes that maximize the public benefit in terms of service provided (in this case number of cycles, cycle stations etc) and limit the call on public funds, will be looked on more favourably than the converse.”
Auckland Transport says it’s looking to partner with an operator in a way that delivers a “successful and long term public bike hire scheme but the nature of such a partnering arrangement “has still to be defined and quantified.”
The body emphasises that whoever gets to run the trial has to demonstrate it could develop a business model that could be sustained over a longer term. This would include confirmation and confidence that a commercial operator has access to capital and revenue sources to implement, maintain, manage, market and develop a successful scheme over the longer term and those submitting addressing what will become the contentious issue – whether the scheme can be operated on a fully commercial basis or would be dependent upon some level of public funding.
From here in Brisbane, I posted how that city’s new bike rental scheme looks good – but it still finding its way in terms of customers and depends on the support and enthusiasm of the local council – something that even in Brisbane may be needed for a long term or forever in terms of funding requirements.
Auckland Transport would like proposals that extend the benefits and advantages of a scheme beyond the CBD to include other district centres, hospitals, major employment sites, public transport interchanges, tertiary educational institutions and recreational centres.
Again, it worries me that the Auckland disease of being half-hearted (as shown by the limited waterfront tram route) is rearing its head again.
It is a hard ask for any business to go to the expense of setting up a bike rental scheme for the RWC and not have a guarantee of what will happen after that. It may only be Nextbike that has the ability to resurrect its old scheme to do that. Assuming Nextbike still has its bikes,etc lying around, it may be that Nextbike is the only group that throws its hat in the ring as who else wants to go to this expense just for the RWC? The funding aspect especially any commitment to public funding is still very fuzzy and it’s hard for any organisation to promise it can run the scheme itself as a commercial operation.
In November, Nextbike announced: “After 3 years of running the operation, as an advertiser funded service, we’ve come to a point where we can no longer sustain the business in its current format.” Nextbike had 2500 members, up from almost 900 in October 2009 and was operating from 55 locations around Auckland. Over 50% of all Nextbike rides were unpaid as short trips. Over 85% of customers were from Auckland. But Nextbike said it could not make it work with the old Auckland council attitudes on funding and the number of bikes and placement of racks issue. Nextbike had put forward four scenarios to the council before it had to call it quits.
Earlier, it had asked for 250 bike racks to be made available for Nextbike to operate from in the central suburbs (CBD,Parnell, Newmarket, Mt Eden, Kingsland, Ponsonby) warning:
“Without permission to expand, and without additional official locations to operate from, Nextbike will operate at a loss for 2010 – 2011. This a position that the shareholders (who have invested $570k over 4 years) can no longer tolerate. All the knowledge and skills are in place for Nextbike to run a financially sustainable public private partnership.
“This will require a supportive operating environment from Auckland City Council and a relatively small capital investment, in comparison to the investment to date from Nextbike, to meet the opportunities.”
More facts and figures on the Nextbike experience are here
This should be a no-brainer.
It’s not just Brisbane. 201 cities around the world are known to now have street public bikes systems. They encourage an alternative transport and a healthy one. It’s what the stupid old Herald didn’t get with its argument that we don’t need trains when we have buses. We need numerous alternatives to cars. We don’t all use just one form. I walk, cycle, catch buses, trains and drive!
We need a clear bold plan of adopting a bike rental plan like Brisbane and sorting out funding now with a commitment of years, not months. If cities like Brisbane are still struggling in the present global business climate to get advertising to pay for the bikes and public funds are needed, there should be no illusion that once the RWC visitors have gone, any such bike rental scheme will struggle.
So let’s get some vision of a bike-friendly city with a workable bike rental scheme that acknowledges it will need a financial partnership with local government to survive.
Doing a temporary or “trial” scheme for the RWC is a bit of a con, giving visitors the impression that Auckland is like the other 201 cities they may come from and that we also have a bike rental scheme. Use of the bikes will of course be inflated by the number of visitors and give no indication how it could work long-term for Auckland. We already know from the Nextbike experience, it will be a struggle.
We need to commit long-term and do it properly.
Auckland Transport will announce its shortlist on February 25.
I’m not knocking the move to try to do something as Auckland Transport’s thinking in encouraging cycling in such a way is certainly in line with what we would expect and have expected it to inherit from the ARC etc.
Of course, with cycling generally in Auckland, there is still a lot to be done.
Auckland Transport, Auckland Council and the New Zealand Transport Agency have deliverd approximately 25% of the regional cycle network covering approximately 238km. This consists of a mixture of off and on road routes.
The estimated combined spend of these works over the three year period from 2009 – 2012 is NZ $36m (excluding cycle facilities provided as part of other transport projects such as road corridor improvements). A map of the regional cycle network in Auckland CBD is shown below.
On a side issue of advertising and sponsorship the document mentions that the contract for bus shelter advertising with Adshel that Auckland Transport inherited exists until 2023! How did that happen!